Wednesday, February 23, 2011


The moral of this song's/Not very long/You might want to write this down:

Oh dear. Oh dear what a silly boy I am.

Someone forwarded me a Facebook link to a news story from The Paper That Supported Hitler. It was alleged that some people had attacked another person; it was further alleged that the people who had allegedly attacked the other person were Muslims and the person they had allegedly attacked was a school teacher. They allegedly didn't like his R.E lessons.

Now, the game of "extrapolating from the particular to the general" is a very popular one, and the person who had forwarded this story thought that the alleged crime could be layed at the door of something called Religion. He also thought that the alleged assailents should go to prison for the rest of their lives, which would be a surprising punishment for serious assualt. I believe that only 38 people -- horrendous serial killers like Rose West and Peter Sutcliff -- are currently serving "whole life tarriffs". (Someone else thought that they would get a maximum of six months in jail: I think he was probably confusing "common assault", for which the maximum penalty is six months, with serious or aggravated assual, for which the maximum penalty is 5 years. But I.A.N.A.L, as the fellow said.)

[UPDATE: They have actually pleaded guilty to Grievous Bodily Harm With Intent, for which the maximum sentence is Life imprisonment.]
Before very long, the thread drifted into English Defence League territory, as I guess any discussion with the word "Muslim" in it is bound to, nowadays.

if they want to resort to voilance (sic) like that, then lets (sic) subject them to Sharia Law punishment

said someone. 

i think that if people who not like the britian that they live in then they should leave. with a deportation boot up their arse if necessary...if they don't like it here leave if they don't like the people laws and education system of this country then go elsewhere.

said someone else.

So far so not terribly interesting.

I unwisely posted a comment, to the effect that given the Daily Mail's known anti-Muslim agenda (to coin a phrase) we should perhaps be skeptical about the news story.

The original news item comes from the Daily Mail.

The Daily Mail believe that Communist-Fascist-Gay-Muslims (who secretly control the Political Correctness Brigade) are out to destroy Western Civilization. (Actually, they believe they already have.)

I suppose that, by the law of averages, the Daily Mail must accidentally print something true from time to time. For all I know, this story might be the one that they have reported accurately.

But the one about the Fascist-Commie-Gay-Muslims closing the cafe because they didn't like the smell of bacon wasn't true.

And the one about Fascist-Commie-Gay-Muslims forcing the swimming pool to put up net curtains wasn't.

Nor was the one about the Fascist-Commie-Gay-Muslims banning hotcross buns.

And the one about Harringay Council paying a fortune to teach F.C.G.M women Hopscotch was definitely not true.

When it comes to stirring up anti-Moslim feeling, the Daily Mail has, shall we say, form. So let's try and find out what really happened before leaping to conclusions, eh?

I don't actually know whether the story in question is true or not, because it hasn't been at all widely covered outside of the Mail, the Express, and various white supremacist web sites.

But in a sense, the "truth" was not what I was worried about, so much as the "slant". 

Consider the following hypothetical headlines.





All four could be literally true: either the alleged attacker was black, or he wasn't; either the victim was white; or she wasn't. But clearly, the different versions carry different slants. The more racist the paper, the more likely it is to to choose a headline which refers to the colour of the alleged assailants skin. (Very few papers would have run with  MAN WHO ENJOYS JAZZ ATTACKS GIRL WHO LIKES ICE SKATING. Why not?)

When The Paper That Employs Melanie Phillips runs a headline


my first reaction is to say. "Wait a minute. Let's find out what the grown up papers say really happened." (Note the scare quotes: that's usually a good warning that all is not as it seems.)

Again, so far, so not terribly interesting. Mild mannered R.E teacher Ian Milsted made some comments about how R.E was actually taught in modern schools, and Bristol sci-fi group's resident clever person David Roden called me out on my use of analogy. (Was I saying that Richard Dawkins was morally comparable to Nick Griffin? No, they were meant to be examples of two people  who were obviously biased on particular subjects. Surely I was implying that Richard Dawkins and Nick Griffin were both equally silly? No, I meant only to say that you wouldn't go to Dawkins for information about the Bible, or to Griffin for information about immigration or to the Mail for information about British Islam, or cures for cancer, or anything else, really.)

But then I did a Very Silly Thing. 

I pointed out  that a religious, racist or homophobic motivation was regarded as an aggravating factor in a crime of assault. It wasn't true that the law didn't take a dim view of Muslims beating up Christian R.E teachers, or Atheists beating up Creationists, or anyone beating up anyone, really.

A person whose name I didn't recognise said that making it against the law to hate someone was tantamount to "thoughtcrime" and that

The most sensible thing would be to punish the crime properly but try teling that to a liberal


are liberals evil or just stupid.

Now, I don't know what the correct answer to the question "are liberals evil or just stupid?" is, but my spur of the moment comment was (you'll like this, I promise)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. And Conservatives get hard-ons thinking about punishing people. And they're evil and stupid and smell of wee.

Not, perhaps, my finest hour. But I am sure that from what you know of me, you would have all understood what point I was trying to make: "Oh well, if we're going to enage in childish name calling, there's not much point in carrying on, is there." When someone has called you evil and stupid, the discussion is at an end, and the Hitler analogies can only be a few lines away.

I am very proud of the fact that I was once banned from RPG.Net for a week, as a result of a discussion of the finer points of C.S Lewis. As I recall it, the argument went something like this:

HIM: I don't like the Narnia books. They make me want to say f**k you Mr Lewis!

ME: I can see they irritate you a good deal, could you perhaps explain why?

HIM: They just make me want to say f**k you Aslan!.

ME: What is it about the figure of Aslan annoys you so much?

HIM: I'm just, like f** k you Aslan! F**k you big holy lion.

ME: Well, if that's all you can say, then I guess I'll just say "f**k you!" to you too, and be on my way.

The moderator was of the opinion, not unreasonably, that saying f**k  you! to a fictitious character was not a violation of the rules of the forum, but saying it to an actual poster, however aggravating, was.

Facebook has no moderator.

But still,  I was not quite prepared for what followed:

Go on then, Andrew, fuck off then with your liberal arrogance and your PC shite.

Yep, they've rumbled me. I guess you've always suspected it. I'm a fully paid up member of the P.C Brigade. I have my membership card and my secret Frankfurt School handbook, and everything. Not that I had complained about insensitive language, or tried to take anyone's gollywog away, or even said Chairperson. "PC" was being used in the strict sense of "opinion I don't much like". Another thing I am very proud of is that a Christedelphian at Speaker's Corner once accused me of being the Antichrist. It's quite true. Give me a shilling, I'll let you see my cloven hoof.

Yes, "liberals are stupid and evil" is indeed an argument. They are stupid and evil because they deny the truth and wish everyone else to do the same. Anyone who disagrees with them is called a Nazi, Fascist, racist or an extremist or is ...said by one Andrew Rilstone to smell of wee. Come on, Andrew, you should be able to take at least as good as you give.

Ah, yes: liberals deny the truth. And what is truth, as a wise man once asked. Truth, it seems is (you'll like this, too) "whatever appears in the Daily Mail". 

No, really.

I am also familiar with the usual anti-Mail jokes. Liberals hate the Mail not because they say the Mail prints lies but because the Mail has an interpretation of facts that they dislike.


You may be expecting this story to have a moral. It doesn't.

Well, okay, maybe it does.

1: I really, really, really ought to have the sense to walk down the road to Cafe Kino with my laptop as soon as I get up, and not waste time looking at Facebook, Twitter, or even my e-mail. I have tons of useful writing I could be getting on with, and I am more likely to do it in a cafe then at my desk.

2: I really, really, really, really ought to have the sense to limit comments on politics to blog entries, which I've thought about for hours, days and occasionally months, as opposed to putting-off-the-cuff comments on forums where they are enshrined in amber for all time. The man who shot first and asked questions later very rarely received any interesting answers.

3: I think my plan to wind-down my facebook participation and concentrate on Twitter turns out to have been a good one. When Facebook started, it was quite a useful way of keeping in touch with my farflungfriends. It was postively nice to know that Louise had gone to Fight Practice or Flash had made a cup of tea. Now, the signal to noise ratio is such -- and I have so many friends that I don't know how I most of them -- that it is just a big, wide, un-navigable information superhighway in its own right.

4: People really do believe what they read in the Daily Mail. And Daily Mail readers are evey bit as nasty as you'd imagine. They really are.


Andrew Hickey said...

Yeah, I avoid Facebook as much as is humanly possible. The whole way it's set up leads to that kind of experience being the norm. Twitter, for some reason, is *usually* better than that, at least in my experience (though having clicked on trending topics in the past teaches me that it's definitely not all good).

Pete Darby said...

It's pretty said that my major reaction to this was "Oh, Andrew knows David. I went to university with David. Small world, innit?"

Iain said...

I think you should be congratulated on the "smelling of wee" comment! Wish I could think of stuff like that!

I speak of One Who Has Been Called A Marxist by a stupid Republican who almost certainly smelled of Poo.

(This was for suggesting that global warming might ... just ... within the realms of possibility ... be true).

Oh yes an another Right Wing American Fundamentalist preacher once sent me an email saying "F**k yourself loser" (not asterisked).

When one gets insults from the Massively Ignorant like that one should wear them like a badge of honour.

The Quizzical Observer said...

I haven't believed anything in a newspaper since an experiment in my college common room on the back of a sociolinguistics course in the 80s. We were asked to collect samples of language from the newspapers. I noticed that all the papers carried the story of the opening of the Thames Barrier. Yes, different linguistic styles was certainly used across the various papers. But I also noticed that no two newspapers quoted the same figure for the cost of the Barrier. The variance between the highest quoted figure and the lowest would have paid for a couple of well equipped hospitals. The cost of the Barrier must have been officially stated, but no two newspapers could agree on the figure. Perhaps one of them got it right, but how could one tell?

Bear in mind the standards of reporting and sub-editing in the 80s were considerably higher than today. Trust nothing in the newspapers that's stated as fact.

Even less should you take opinion seriously.

aidathejones said...

I agree with all you say, and, it seems, have ever said, as far as my memory goes.

Was the Louise you mentioned you mentioned in passing Louise Holden? If so, I am Louise's nephew. Well, I'd be Louise's nephew anyway, but this particular Louise of the Holden variety.

In fact, I think you are to be part of our troupe for Glastonbury, of which I am also part. If so, hoorah! If not, I must have got the wrong Andrew Rilstone.